Embracing experience a must in Detroit

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:15 PM ET

DETROIT - Cory Emmerton has been the youngest regular in the Detroit Red Wings' lineup this season.

He turns 24 this summer.

"This organization doesn't rush you," the former Kingston Frontenacs forward and St. Thomas, Ont., native said. "I'm not trying to criticize teams that put 18- and 19-year-olds in their lineup because a lot of times, those players have the talent to succeed, but you do see cases where it doesn't work out.

"This is a tough league and it takes time to learn to play in it. Detroit makes sure when you get here, you're ready.

"They develop you, they're patient, and when you're in the minors, they communicate very well what you need to do to get up here and stay. On the outside, you see all the winning here and when you're part of it, you start to understand why."

It's a philosophy that runs counter to how every young hockey star is programmed. They grow up constantly trying to speed through the system and play against skaters older than themselves.

But Detroit never forgets a player's prime generally starts in his late 20s.

"As a kid, all you want is new challenges," Emmerton said. "You're trying to get to the highest level as quickly as possible. But the Wings want you here in your best hockey years. Guys who have success here, obviously, as they get older, want to stick around because it's a great environment.

"You always have a chance to win."

Most seasons, the biggest worry about the Wings is they're getting too old to sustain the rigours of the long regular season and a deep playoff run.

But Detroit has always embraced experience and is known for icing some of the game's oldest players -- from Gordie Howe to Chris Chelios and, now, Nicklas Lidstrom.

"You look around this room and if I had a question about something, there isn't one guy I wouldn't feel comfortable to go up and ask," Emmerton said. "If it's something about the game, you expect the next guy to be able to tell you because they're supposed to know the answer. That's how it works here."

HOT ON HOCKEYTOWN

Five interesting things about the Detroit Red Wings and their home:

5. Pavel Datsyuk is considered one of the best players in the last decade, but has never scored 100 points (97 twice) and has averaged less than a point per game in his career (but is plus-204 all-time).

4. Heading into Friday, only the Phoenix Coyotes had less fighting majors than Detroit. The Wings have finished last in the NHL in that category the last three years.

3. The Wings had only three players score at least 40 goals in a single season the last 10 years -- Marian Hossa (2008-09), Henrik Zetterberg (2007-08) and Brendan Shanahan (2005-06).

2. The Joe Louis Arena rink boards are unlike any in the NHL. "They're lively," defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. "You have to be careful because you never know when the puck will bounce right out in front."

1. Joe Louis Arena, built in 1979, is the fourth-oldest NHL rink (behind Madison Square Garden, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island and Edmonton's Rexall Place).

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RyanAtLFPress


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